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Afghanistan's All-Girl Robotics Team Denied Entry Into US For Competition

A team of Afghan girls who entered an international competition had their visas denied

Yesterday we wrote about the #GrandparentsNotTerrorists hashtag going around as Twitter users protest the Supreme Court’s partial upholding of the Muslim travel ban. Today, with news that an all-girl robotics team from Afghanistan has been barred from traveling to their competition, the hits just keep on coming.

Forbes has the story of the team of girls who had their Visas denied, thereby preventing them from attending the First Global Challenge being held in Washington D.C. later this month.

The team, who created a robot for the competition’s clean water theme, will be forced to watch the competition via Skype after having their application for visas rejected. Twice. With no explanation. Did we mention that merely applying for those visas required traveling 500 miles to the American Embassy in Kabul, where there has been much recent violence?

Roya Mahboob, Afghanistan’s first female tech CEO, put the team together as part of The Digital Citizen Fund, which she co-founded.

“It’s a very important message for our people,” she told Forbes. “Robotics is very, very new in Afghanistan…The first time [they were rejected] it was very difficult talking with the students. They’re young and they were very upset.”

95% of teams in the competition will be able to attend, including ones from Iraq and Sudan. Only the teams from Afghanistan and Gambia were denied, for confidential reasons the State Department does not disclose. Obviously, it’s not particularly easy to get permission to travel to the U.S. from Afghanistan, but one would hope that exceptions could be made.

Not this time, and the girls will be forced to cross their fingers for their robot from home.

In 2017, it’s hard enough for American women to be taken seriously as professionals and politicians, let alone scientists and engineers. And it’s nearly impossible for American Muslims to get the benefit of the doubt in this country.

So it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that a team of female engineers from a Muslim country aren’t catching any breaks.

Despite the majority of terrorism on American soil having been committed by homegrown white men with hateful views, the Trump’s administration fear of people from foreign countries has seemingly surmounted all other goals (except maybe depriving the poor of healthcare). While the travel ban may not be to blame in this specific instance, the atmosphere of bigotry and xenophobia it promotes certainly can’t be helping. Everyone is a figure of suspicion — so long as they have dark skin and hail from a Muslim country.

Keeping the country safe from potential terror threats is an important goal (unless those terror threats are white men). But so is continuing to promote America’s reputation as a place of hope, where dreams can come true, no matter your gender, race, or religion.

Thanks to incidents like this, that reputation is in danger.